Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Right Thing

Sandy got torn up by a Rottweiler cross the other day. This was a dog she knew and had been around many times. There were three dogs and two people, and suddenly the Rottie had Sandy on the ground with her paw on Sandy’s chest and her teeth buried in Sandy’s neck.

I pulled the other dog off, took a look at Sandy and phoned the vet to say we were on the way. Sandy had a deep wound in her right shoulder that needed stitches and a drain, puncture wounds under both her front legs, and tooth marks on her left foreleg. The Rottie was not fooling around. She was unhurt; Sandy never put up a fight.

The Rottie’s owner called me to see how Sandy was doing. I gave her the good news: her dog missed all the important stuff like blood vessels and tendons and internal organs. The bad news was the vet bill, and I asked for her help with it. Later she called and said that she didn’t believe that she was responsible for the vet bill, and that her dog would never have started the fight, and she was surprised that I would ask her for money.

What is the right thing?

In my mind, the right thing would have been for her to offer to help, or at least to agree to help when I asked. I believe, as she does, that we are each responsible for our own dogs, but I take that to mean that we are responsible for what our own dogs inflict on other dogs regardless of who looked at who sideways first.

She says no. Her dog has never done that before, and it couldn’t have been her dog’s fault, and it was irresponsible of me to ask for help with the bill. She didn’t say she couldn’t afford it. She said she wasn’t responsible for helping.

This makes me sad and it confuses me because I thought of her as a friend. I like her very much, and it’s hard to accept that we can be so far apart on something as fundamental as what is the right thing.

Sandy and I have a pact. I ask her to curb her natural tendency to brawl with other pushy female dogs, and in return I look out for her and try to put her in situations where she can succeed. Over the past two years we have worked very hard on this. I need her to trust me, and when she does I need to measure up.

The other day in the off-leash area, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to Sandy. She wanted to leave, and I kept talking to the Rottie’s owner. The Rottie came close to Sandy, taking up her space, pushing her over. Sandy knew she wasn’t allowed to fight; she submitted. She walked away. She came to me when I called her, but I still didn’t leave. That’s when the Rottie went for her, and Sandy never fought back.

What is the right thing?

Maybe by insisting on what other dogs see as submissive behavior I left her vulnerable to this attack. I let Sandy down by not leaving when she needed to. I left her in a situation where she was not going to succeed. She knew what is the right thing. She tried to tell me. I didn’t listen.

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